“People with serious mental illness who have family support usually do much better than people without it.”
Over 10 years ago a top manager at Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services (ACBHCS) shared this observation with mothers advocating for their loved ones living with serious mental illness (SMI.). Unlike the former manager, many members of the general public overlook the invaluable support family caregivers provide to those experiencing mental illness and/or substance abuse disorder.
Typically, a caregiver will expend considerable energy working to get the family member to accept mental health care. If the person with SMI withdraws or neglects hygiene or gets dangerously aggressive, the caregiver pleads for safe, socially acceptable behavior. If the person’s self-esteem suffers, it is a family member who presses forward with messages of hope. If medication is prescribed, the caregiver encourages the loved one to follow the doctor’s orders.
Often the inability to concentrate or communicate well means the person with SMI is unable to work. It is the family caregivers who provide financial support until they are able to help their relative obtain monthly benefits or work again.
Most outsiders have no idea of the stress, financial challenges, fear and sometimes shame that family members regularly face.
ACBHCS funds The African American Family Support Group of the Mental Health Association, to offer free events to support caregivers facing this heavy set of demands.
The next African American Family Outreach Project workshop will take place on Saturday, March 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at The Ed Roberts Campus, (located at the Ashby Bart Station) 3075 Adeline Avenue, Berkeley.
The workshop will feature a “Question & Answer” session with a psychiatrist and three workshops on “Self-Care,” “Services for Substance Abuse Users” and “How to Access Services in a Time of Crisis.”
Free lunch will be provided for registered attendees. To register, please call 510.697-8533 or visit https://youarenotalone2020.eventbrite.com so that the Mental Health Association can prepare adequately.